Friday, February 1, 2008

Sleepless Solutions?

As I sit in my family room, I'm looking across at the clock on my television, it says "2:30 am". Not sure why, but about an hour ago I woke up, wide awake. Partially due to a cat that for some reason decided to sharpen her claws by my ear on the side of the bed, but I think also partially because of some unfinished work that I must attend to soon. Which include finishing a lecture on Anglican Church Music that I am giving at a local University College next week, writing program notes for my Chamber Choir concert in two weeks, finding two trumpet players for Easter Sunday, and the list goes on. So rather than lay in bed staring at the ceiling, I decided to get up, and see if I there were any of these tasks I could begin. Instead though, I figured this topic might make for a good blog post. I don't have an unusually busy day tomorrow, so I figure I'll make up for it with a nap at some point.

From time to time I've struggled with various bouts of insomnia, and I've come to a point where I can almost predict when it is going to happen. About a year ago I was given a prescription sleep aid, which works VERY well, but carries with it a possibility of dependency, so I tend not to use it unless I've gone a few nights in a row with poor sleep, and the latest Hollywood tragedy which early indications point towards the use of sleeping pills has me a bit concerned about their use. Some nights they are just "restless" nights with deep sleep interrupted by regular looks at the alarm clock, but usually followed by more sleep; there are nights when I can't call asleep at all; and there are night when I fall asleep quickly, but then wake up a few hours later - wide awake. Tonight, it's the later.

As a typical choral musician, my hours of work tend to start late, and end late. Most choir rehearsals are in the evenings - mainly for the obvious reason that most choristers work during the day. So, for at least three of the five work days a week (more if I've taken on anything extra) I'm working until around 10 PM. Music also creates for me an emotional high. So it can sometimes take me a few hours to "turn off". There are some nights when I can't stop rehearsing. Last night was Church Choir rehearsal, and for the last hour, I've been singing the processional hymn over and over again. Lately after my Monday Night chamber choir rehearsal - it's Handel and Bach that haunt me through the night.

Through my university years, insomnia usually hit the night before an exam, or the due date of a paper (yes, I can admit now that most of my term papers were written the night before they were due - I am that type of person. I'd be lying if I tried to convince myself, or my profs that I did better work under this kind of pressure - it was just that I was very poor in the time management aspects of my life). I can think of a number of occasions when the night before a big concert I've had little sleep. I can even remember the night before my FIRST rehearsal with the lab choir used for my Masters recital where I didn't sleep at all.

I suppose I'm wondering if this is a common problem of musicians, especially those who are conductors, and work into the later parts of the evening. If so, what are your home remedies, or rituals that you have to prevent the onset of insomnia?

Take your time - I'll be up for a while.


Chorus said...

I have an award for you over at my place!

Ben Clapton said...

I've got a book that would put you to sleep: The Penguin History of Australian Cricket. I've been reading it since 2003, and still haven't finished it... I think I'm about half way through... of course, it must be said that I'd generally only read it during the cricket, and I've missed a few seasons recently.

Anyway, I'd really love to have a copy of your talk on Anglican Church Music when you've finished it. A slight interest in it on my part. Can e-mail it to me at mail(at)benclapton(dot)id(dot)au

From The Podium said...

HA - I have to say - I've tried many times to understand Cricket. I've even watched the majority of a test match on the internet as my Aussie friend who was staying at my place had it up every day he was here. But I just can't grasp it. Perhaps the penguin guide would help - or as you say - at least help with the insomnia.

I'd be happy to send along the lecture - although it will be powerpoint, and mostly "off the cuff" If you are interested however, I'd be happy to send you my Doctoral thesis, which is a case study on an Anglican church music program at a Cathedral in Canada. You might find it interesting - or at the very least - replace your Penguin guide to help your insomnia.

Ben Clapton said...

The Doctoral thesis might be interesting, though of course you'll forgive me if I only skim (but I may well read it in depth). I'm actually slightly interested to see any differences between the Anglican church in Canada and Perth